Lakewood Comeback vs. Columbine Falls Short

LAKEWOOD – Years from now, some historian or library patron or just some curious, rabid football fan will stumble across a recap of the first game of Friday’s double-header at JeffCo Stadium. They’ll note the Columbine Rebels brought in a 4-1 record and were ranked fourth in the state. They’ll see Lakewood was just 2-3 before the kickoff.

Perhaps they’ll glance at the final score – Columbine 41, Lakewood 29 – and think: “Losing by 12 points to one of the state’s top teams isn’t anything to be ashamed about.”

And they would be right. Except…

There’s always an exception. In this case, it’s the fact Lakewood could have won. Skeptics will look at the game and say, “They were down 21-0 before the first quarter ended. They were down 34-0 before they ever scored a point.” And they would be right on all counts.

But on the east sidelines, where the Columbine Rebels had set up camp, Coach Andy Lowry was concerned enough with the change in the game’s momentum, that with just over seven minutes to play, he sent his first team defense and offense back into the game.

Columbine vs. Lakewood game gallery. Click for more photos.
Columbine vs. Lakewood game gallery. Click for more photos.
“They’re a scrappy team. Tough kids, always have been. They gave us a good fight,” he said.

“I’m glad they put those guys back in – it was fun,” Lakewood coach Mark Robinson said. “And that was a class act by Andy Lowry to call the dogs off.”

Lakewood started well enough. The opening kickoff was caught in the end zone. Under Colorado prep rules, that’s an automatic touchback, so the Tigers started at the 20. Senior quarterback Joe Hemschoot, who would carry the load for most of the game, ran for 3-yards and then 6 more. On third-and-1 a fumbled snap left the Tigers with a fourth-and-2. They punted.

Columbine got to work at its own 45. Junior Gary Miller got the first call, a run up the middle for three. Facing a fourth-and-3 at the Tiger 49 the Rebels decided to go for it. Senior quarterback Danny Spond looked for and found senior Sean Neu for a 9-yard gain. Three plays later Spond rambled in from 16 yards out on an option keeper around the left side. Spond also served as the team’s kicker and booted the extra point.

Lakewood’s second drive of the contest moved forward three yards, from the 20. It then proceeded to move backward 10 as Hemschoot was sacked on second down and threw a pass for minus five on third. Facing a fourth-and-17 the Tigers punted – but only out to the 30.

Two incomplete passes and a 5-yard run by Miller and it looked as if the Tigers might get out of the jam by holding Columbine to a field goal. But on fourth-and-5 from the 25, Spond took the ball, jammed it up the middle, gave a second effort, then a third and maybe even a fourth. He kept his legs churning until he reached the 19-yard-line. First down Columbine. On the next play, Spond hit Neu for the remaining yardage needed for the score.

After three plays, Lakewood fumbled. The miscue gave the Rebels excellent field position at the Lakewood 38. Sophomore Cameron McDondie took the pitch around the left side and raced down the sideline to Lakewood 2. The Rebels gave him a chance to make up the final two yards on the next play. He bobbled the pitch but kept running. He regained control while the ball was still in the air, cut between two defenders and waltzed into the end zone. Spond’s PAT made it 21-0 with 1:56 left in the first.

Lakewood’s next drive was shaping up to be one that might get them back into the game. The kickoff return gave them good field position at the 35. The Tigers abandoned the running game and took to the air. Hemschoot hit junior Tim Zott for five, then senior Trey Battistic for 12. A 3-yarder to sophomore Robert Condon put the Tigers into Rebel territory for the first time at the 48. Hemschoot’s next pass came up short and was intercepted by senior Trey Torres at the Columbine 22.

The Rebels went on a methodical march down the field. Spond passed to Neu for 13. He hit McDondle for eight. He scrambled for two to get a fresh set of downs. And then, with a first-and-goal at the nine, he zig-zagged through the Tiger line and into the end zone. With 7:55 to play in the half Danny Spond booted the extra point to put the Columbine Rebels up 28-0.

“I really like that Spond kid, he’s really a great player,” Lakewood coach Robinson said.

Lakewood’s next drive pushed deep into Rebel territory. Hemschoot kept on the first play up the middle in a move that more resembled a rugby scrum than a football play. Somehow, when the pile stopped moving, Hemshoot and the Tigers found themselves 37 yards further down the field. The drive stalled at the 13, though. Facing a fourth down and what amounted to about a half yard for a first, Hemschoot shot up the middle. The Rebels were ready and stopped him cold.

With 52.9 seconds to go in the half, Columbine coach Andy Lowry decided to switch quarterbacks. Sophomore Justin Brown bobbled the snap. Senior Derek Aga pounced on it, and the Tigers were staring at the Rebel goal line with possession of the ball at the Rebel 10. Hemschoot’s first pass was off the mark. On second down he kept around the left end for the score. The point after sailed wide right and Lakewood trailed 34-6.

Things didn’t start much better in the second half. Lakewood kicked to Neu, who took the ball at the five. 14 seconds later he was handing the ball to the official in the end zone following a 95-yard kickoff return. The PAT gave Columbine a 41-6 lead.

The game’s next score didn’t come until 2:56 remained in the third. Facing a fourth-and-13 from the Lakewood 15 the Rebels decided to go for it. The pass fell incomplete and Lakewood started at its own 15 with six minutes left in the quarter. They went three and out, but the Tiger punt was touched by a Rebel and recovered by senior Casey Ophaug at the Lakewood 40. On fourth-and-1 at midfield, Hemschoot went up the middle for a 20-yard gain. Four plays later he jammed himself up the middle again and scored from five yards out. The PAT kick by junior Danny Giertz cut the deficit to 41-13.

Then the fun started.

On Columbine’s next series they got as far as the Lakewood 47. On fourth-and-10 they punted. Like mad men possessed Ophaug and sophomore Sam Powell broke through the line and blocked the kick. Battistic fell on it. Three plays later, with second-and-1 at the Rebel 23, Hemschoot scrambled through the secondary for a touchdown. A holding penalty negated the run, pushing Lakewood back to the 31. The next play was an incomplete pass. Hemschoot ran a keeper on the next play for a 21-yard gain. Two plays later he hit Battistic in the end zone. The Tigers went for two. Hemschoot passed to Ophaug and, with 10:42 to play, Lakewood found itself down 41-21.

It was Columbine’s turn to go out in just four plays. A defensive stand on fourth-and-1 with 8:32 to play gave Lakewood the ball on its own 46.

The Rebels, sensing a shift in momentum, put the first string defense back into the game.

A pass from Hemschoot to Ophaug and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave Lakewood the ball at the Columbine 33. A 16-yard pass to Battistic set the Tigers up at the 14. But the drive stalled when, on fourth-and-6 from the 10, another Hemschoot pass fell incomplete.

The Rebels could manage to get only out to the 18 before having to punt. Lakewood took over at the 44. In five plays Hemschoot marched the Tigers down the field, scoring on a keeper from five yards out. Hemschoot ran in the try for two and the Tigers were now looking at a 41-29 deficit with 2:43 to play.

“I was really happy with our own QB in the second half. He hung in there and made some plays,” Robinson said.

“They get a turnover and another quick score and we could be in trouble,” one Columbine coach said almost as if talking to himself.

But the Rebels were able to run out the clock following the failed onsides kick attempt.

“They’ve got us on size, speed and strength,” Robinson said. “We’ve got four top 10 teams in a row, so we knew this was going to be a tough stretch. We’re playing a lot of young kids. Start a lot of sophomores. We think that will help next year. We’re hoping the experience is invaluable.”

Lowry seemed genuinely impressed by the effort. “They fought hard. They came back and didn’t give up,” he said. “They always put up a fight.”

Columbine goes to 5-1. Lakewood falls to 2-4.

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